Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Better off

                    Bug: Insect         Appalling: Terrible/ Shocking

If you are “better off”, it means that you are in a better or more favorable position or situation. If you are better off with (something) or doing (something), it is a more preferable scenario when compared to other options or alternatives.

1. There is an expression which says, “Ignorance is bliss” (Ignorance is happiness). It basically means that some things we are better off not knowing. It’s the same as saying, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” Do you honestly think you would be better off not knowing something, or is it always better to know?

2.  If you had to choose between losing your sight and losing your hearing, which would it be? Would you be better off being able to see or being able to hear? In the latest episode of Dr. House entitled, “Love is blind”, a blind patient is faced with a decision: he can receive treatment and lose his hearing or he could refuse the treatment and die. Initially he thought it was better off to die if he were both blind and deaf. Look at this video clip I put together:

3. Our environment will be better off when we start using alternative forms of energy more and more.

4. I have a cable TV subscription, but in Brazil all of my favorite TV series are shown at least 2 to 3 weeks after they come out in the US. It’s better off downloading them and watching them immediately, than having to wait so long - even if it’s considered piracy. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Go through

Stand: to tolerate/ put up with (only used in the negative sense): 
Ex. I can’t stand losing.

If you “go through” something, it is the same as saying to experience something. Generally this phrasal verb is used to talk about difficult or negative experiences. It can also simply mean to pass through something.

1.  If someone “goes through hell and high water”, it means that they pass through many severe difficulties. Most women go through hell and high water when they are pregnant. I don’t doubt it.

2. Many people go through “culture shock” when they move to a foreign country. Everything is so different to what they are used to (accustomed to), and it takes time to adapt to their new environment. 

3. Can you imagine what people in prison go through, being isolated from the rest of the world? I have no intention of finding out (discovering). I don’t want to go there!

4. The Middle East is still going through radical changes, and I imagine it will be a long hard process with no quick fixes (easy solutions). They still have a “long road ahead of them”.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

There goes...

When we say, “There goes…” it means that you will lose something… your chance of success is lost or at risk. Something has frustrated your plans. It can also be the end of something.

1. There goes the neighborhood is an expression used in a social context, where an affluent (wealthy) neighborhood starts to go downhill because of some (perceived) negative influences: People of a different social class or ethnicity move into a neighborhood and the old way of life cannot be preserved. The residents of the neighborhood will lose their comfortable way of life. Their ideal world has been invaded. In this sense it is derogatory (negative and judgmental). It could be a racist or classist comment… but on the other hand, perhaps a new bar has just opened on your street, which may attract some negative influences, and you can say, “There goes the neighborhood”.

2. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Greece should raise its retirement age, which at the moment is somewhere between 59 and 61 years old. The Greek government now plans to raise it to 63 years old by 2015. Many Greeks are not happy about this, for obvious reasons, and I’m sure many people are shaking their heads and saying, “There goes my early retirement!” Germany raised its retirement age several years ago from 65 to 67.

3. With all of the drama surrounding the PIPA and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) acts, many people are saying, “There goes the internet as we know it”. People are now becoming more careful about infringing on (violating) copyright laws… so things are definitely changing. Right now, I am able to use copyrighted comic strips on my blog for teaching purposes, without asking the copyright holder (owner) for permission. This is called “fair use”. Examples of fair use include using copyrighted material for commentary, criticism, news reporting, research and teaching. SOPA threatens the concept of fair use.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stick to (something)

To follow, continue or persist with something without changing it, giving up or getting distracted.

1. As with anything, when it comes to learning English, you need to stick to it and keep working at it. If you persist long enough you will reach your goals. As they say, “Practice makes perfect”.

2. If someone sticks to their guns, they keep their position even if people attack or criticize them. Muamar Kadafi stuck to his guns even when the whole world was against him. Did that make him a madman or did it make him a martyr?

3 Do you know anyone who finds it difficult to stick to the point – someone who can’t focus on one point and who gets distracted and rambles on (talks and talks) about everything under the sun?

4. Stick-to-itiveness is a noun which comes from the phrase “stick to it”. If you have stick-to-itiveness, you have “dogged determination”, incredible perseverance or tenacity. You don’t give up easily. You stick to something until it is completed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The greatest thing since sliced bread

When someone says that someone or something is “the best/ greatest thing since sliced bread”, they think that it or that person is cool, great, fantastic, incredible, awesome etc. It’s also a relatively recent invention or innovation that is likely to significantly improve people's lives.
Sliced bread is a loaf of bread which has been pre-sliced and packaged for convenience. It was first sold in 1928, advertised as "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped." This led to the popular phrase, "the greatest thing since sliced bread". - Wikipedia

1. Take a look at this keyboard food tray. It prevents you from getting crumbs on or spilling coffee on your keyboard while you’re eating at your desktop. Would this kind of gadget be useful to you? For people who need to eat or snack on the job, it’s quite literally the greatest thing since sliced bread.

2.  Recently someone recommended a free piece of software that automatically adjusts the contrast of your computer screen at night to make it easier on your eyes. “F.lux” is the best thing since sliced bread! Here’s the site:

3. Do you think twitter and Facebook are the greatest thing since sliced bread, or do you think that social media is the biggest time-waster since the invention of the TV?

4. I think pen drives (USBs) are the best thing since sliced bread. Who doesn’t have one nowadays?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Be used to VS used to

-> “Get/be used to”:  
With the verbs “get” or “to BE”, used to is an adjective in the present: “I AM used to…” is the same as saying, “I AM accustomed to…”
* When followed by a verb, the verb must be in the –ing form

1.  I live in an apartment on a busy road. In the first week it was difficult to get to sleep, but now we’re used to the noise from the traffic. It doesn’t bother us in the least.

2. Here in the Northeast of Brazil, the heat is really oppressive at times. If you can get used to the climate though, it’s absolutely worth it – just for the fantastic beaches, and of course a year-round summer.

3. I’m used to teaching English classes early in the morning and late in the evening. The great thing about teaching from home is that I’m able to take a nap just about every afternoon… I’m used to having a flexible lifestyle.

->Used to”:  
WITHOUT the verb “get” or “to be”, used to is a verb in the past tense: something you used to do regularly in the past as a routine/ habit that you don't do anymore.
*Also used with states (i.e. a state of mind/ state of being)

1. I used to work on the cruise ships as a photographer 11 years ago. It was my dream job until I decided to live and work in Latin America.

2. I used to teach English at some large English schools in Central America. When I came to Brazil I decided to focus exclusively on teaching private English classes from home. Since then I’ve never looked back.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Get off on the wrong foot

If you “get off on the wrong foot with someone” you get off to a bad start with them. You have a bad first impression of someone or vice versa because one or both of you are offended by the other. You are not meeting one another under the most favorable circumstances. It can also be a bad start in any situation in general.

1. Sometimes we get off on the wrong foot with someone we meet for the first time, and they may not like us because maybe we were a little rude, when in actual fact we are usually polite and friendly. We may have been in a bad mood that day or maybe they just misinterpreted our intentions. Has that ever happened to you? Don’t you just want to tell that person, “I’m really a nice guy!”

2. It’s very rare to get off on the wrong foot with someone and then to end up becoming friends. Have you ever become friends with someone you didn’t like in the beginning? It’s difficult for someone to change their perception of you and vice versa.

3. If you had a misunderstanding with someone and you want to apologize and make things right, you can go up to them and say, “You know, I think we got off on the wrong foot”. Often that’s enough to win the person over and make a new start. Humility goes a long way in resolving situations.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pick it up

If you need to “pick it up”, you need to go faster or hurry, because you are doing something too slowly. In this comic strip, there is a literal and figurative meaning: Pick up the game/ pick up the golf ball.
**Another (similar) meaning of “pick up” is when something “gets busier”.

1. Often I tell myself to pick it up, otherwise my English students may arrive while I’m still in the shower.

2. In a long-distance cycling race or in a marathon, people who are lagging behind will find it almost impossible to catch up to (reach) the frontrunners if they don’t pick up the pace early enough.

3 We need to pick things up when we have a deadline and are racing against the clock. It’s not easy to get your kids to pick it up when you’re running late!

4. Have you ever asked a taxi driver or someone driving a car to pick it up because you had a job interview to get to? It’s nerve-wracking when it depends on someone else whether you arrive on time or not.

5. FIFA's secretary general, Jerome Valcke, scolded Brazil again for being behind schedule in stadium preparations for the 2014 World Cup. He said, “there is not a single stadium ready today." He is pushing Brazilian lawmakers to pick up the pace.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Clean slate/ Wipe the slate clean

A clean slate is a new beginning. It is an opportunity to start again without prejudice. What happened in the past doesn’t matter anymore.

1. Since 1994 South Africa has been called “The New South Africa”, because that’s when apartheid ended and the first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, took office. It was seen as a fresh start for the country as a whole – to try and do things a different way. It was a clean slate so to speak.

2.  You can be bitter (angry/ have resentment) towards someone or you can forgive them and wipe the slate clean. It’s not easy to “forgive and forget”, but if you are able to, you can have a new beginning.

3. Don’t you feel like you have a clean slate at the beginning of a new year? You have new possibilities and a fresh start. We can learn from our mistakes in the previous year and move forward.

4. When someone “turns over a new leaf”, it means that they wipe the slate clean and make an effort to be a better person and to change completely. Do you believe that people can change, or are you skeptical?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Make up

If you make up something, it means that you are “inventing”, creating or fabricating a story, a lie or an excuse.
(1) Fix: To prepare food   (2) Ransom: The money that is demanded when someone is kidnapped or abducted   (3) Fibber: a liar    (4) See through: A phrasal verb meaning “to know or understand the truth”

1.  Do your friends and family know when you’re making up a story, or are you very convincing when you are joking? When I make up a story, it’s difficult for me to keep a straight face (not laugh).

2. In what situations is it OK to lie and make up excuses that are not true? Are you always perfectly honest about personal things when you have to explain something, or do you say, “Sorry, I can’t tell you.”?

3. When a child (or anyone) asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, do you sometimes make up an answer? Would you say to a curious child, “I don’t know.”?

4.  Can you make up a story on the spot (at the moment) or do you need some time to think about it? If you think quickly, you are able to “think on your feet.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's a long shot

A “long shot” is when you try to do something or guess something that has a very low chance of success because it is difficult or unlikely. If you succeed at a long shot, usually there is a great reward.
Fall for (something):  to easily believe a lie/ to be tricked easily.

1. I don’t have the qualifications for the job, but it wouldn’t hurt to go along to the interview and just try. Who knows - maybe I’ll get lucky. It’s a long shot… but I have nothing to lose anyway.

2. When you go to a casino to gamble, walking away with more money than you brought in is always a long shot, unless you are a professional poker player or something, because the odds (probabilities) are always in the casino’s favor. The odds are always against the gambler.

3. Many people play the lottery with the hopes of becoming an instant millionaire. Of course we all know that it’s a long shot, but we continue to dream anyway. After all, someone has to win eventually, right?

4. For all golf players, a hole-in-one is always a long shot. It happens, but not that often.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Figure out

If you try to figure something out, you try to find the answer or the solution. You may also be trying to find out the reason for something or UNDERSTAND it.
I suppose: I have no reason to say no
How’s it coming: exactly the same as “how’s it going?”  

1. Steven Hawking, a world famous British theoretical physicist, has addressed some of the most complex questions in modern physics, but cannot figure women out. He says, “They are a complete mystery.

2. We haven’t been able to figure out how the Pyramid of Cheops (The biggest pyramid in existence) was built. It’s the size of a 40-storey building made up of (comprising) 2 million stone blocks, each weighing 2-5 tons. Experts reckon (believe) it took 400,000 men about 20 years to complete.

3 I haven’t figured out how to get rich yet. Those million-dollar ideas seem to be very elusive! For now it’s hard enough trying to figure out how to get by (survive) from month to month.

4. Have you ever had a problem with your computer that you couldn’t figure out? When I can’t figure out how to do something very technical, I usually turn to Google.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Just in case

If there happens to be a need/ If things don’t happen according to plan or what you expect/ If there is an unexpected circumstance or change.

1. Do you carry an umbrella around just in case it rains? When I carry an umbrella it doesn’t rain. Murphy’s law.

2.  People take out insurance policies just in case something happens to their car, their health etc. Here are two interesting types of insurance: (a) Weather cancellation insurance, which reduces an organization’s risk in planning an outdoor event, just in case weather prevents that activity from taking place. (b) Some people take out Alien abduction insurance, just in case they get abducted by aliens:

3. Do you always have a plan “B”, just in case plan “A” doesn’t work out? Some people go for several job interviews, just in case they aren’t accepted at one place.

4. If someone is planning to be a professional athlete, a singer, an actor or a comedian, it may be a good idea for them to study a profession they could “fall back onjust in case it doesn’t work out for them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cheer up

When you try to cheer someone up, you try to make them feel better because they are feeling sad, depressed, discouraged or despondent.

1.  Isn’t it irritating or annoying when you are feeling down and someone casually says to you, “Cheer up!”? Do they expect you to instantly change your mood with a click of their fingers?!

2. When you are stuck in a rut (a monotonous routine or emotional state that is difficult to get out of), how do you cheer yourself up? Do you watch a movie, visit a friend or eat some ice-cream?

3. It’s relatively easy to cheer children up. You can make faces, act silly, give them some candy/ sweets, distract them from what is making them sad, promise them something, give them what they want, hug, kiss or cuddle them.

4.  Here are the lyrics to Bob Marley’s song, “Cheer up”: “Cheer up my brothers, cheer up my sisters. Cheer up my momma too, Lord. Cheer up my father, let me say I know it won't be long. That change has got to come. And I know that it won't be long. We've been down in captivity so long, so long. If we unite then we will be free”: